Councilman Jumaane Williams and Rodneyse Bichotte, winner of the Democratic primary for the 42nd District State Assembly
Rodneyse Bichotte embraced by supporter as she enters Tonel after announcement of her victory.

By Vania Andre

Rodneyse Bichotte, a trained engineer, financial executive and community leader, was elected to the New York State Assembly on Tuesday night in the Democratic primary in a landslide over two rivals.

If Bichotte wins the general election in November against token Republican and Conservative opponents, she will become the first Haitian American from New York City to serve in the Assembly. Bichotte is poised to represent the 42nd District, which includes, Flatbush, Midwood and many other areas of Central Brooklyn.

Tuesday’s victory was a culmination of Bichotte’s journey into politics when she lost two years ago to Rhoda Jacobs, the long time incumbent who retired this year. After losing to Jacobs, Bichotte ran successfully for a county leadership position and amassed a small army of supporters. Mayor Bill de Blasio was an early supporter.

“I am humbled and exceedingly grateful to have received the confidence of the people of the 42nd Assembly District to serve as their next Assemblywoman in the New York State Assembly,” Bichotte said. “Today’s win is only an indication of the trust that you all have placed in me and that I will deliver on in Albany.

“I want to be a voice for the voiceless,” she said. This district is a rich one that is often ignored because of its large immigrant population. Bichotte reiterated her gratitude and allegiance to the strong union supporters who backed her.  Several prominent unions, including TWU Local 100 and the Hotel Trades Council, endorsed Bichotte for the New York Assembly in the 42nd District.

Supporter looking on as Bichotte delivers her victory speech.

On Tuesday night the air was crisp in the back room of Tonel  Restaurant where a group of anxious voters waited for the results of the Democratic primary. The small restaurant in East Flatbush has become a community favorite in recent months, making it a natural spot for Bichotte’s supporters to convene. They chatted among themselves as periodic updates on the election results ran across a projector screen.

Everyone was dispersed around the room, but as the votes came in, the crowd filled out and people circled in closer to the screen. As results progressed into Bichotte’s favor the energy escalated. There was already enthusiasm and hope in the air, but as the results hit the 50 percent mark, the possibility of a dream realized glistened in supporters’ eyes as they watched the results flash across the screen.

By 10:30 p.m. Bichotte had 50 percent of the vote. By midnight, the New York Times reported Bichotte the victor in the Democratic.  Bichotte defeated L. Rickie Tulloch, Michele Adolphe and Victor Jordan.

“She is competent on the issues, and she is passionate about standing up for workers,” said Josh Gold, political director for the Hotel Trades Council (HTC), in a statement. HTC represents about 32,000 non-managerial employees working in the hotel industry.  “Rodneyse understands what union membership means to New Yorkers and their families, because her mother was an HTC member for many years and is now an HTC retiree.”

Bichotte and her mother at Tonel.
Bichotte and her mother at Tonel.

“Today’s win is only an indication of the trust that you all have placed in me and that I will deliver on in Albany,” Bichotte said.  Some of her main goals include increasing access to affordable housing, increasing minimum wage to $15 an hour and anything on the “Haitian agenda.”

“With me being Haitian, that Haitian agenda will always be in the limelight,” Bichotte said. I’ll work to break that fear of outsiders and allow integration that will for work for the community. People have a lot of complaints, but don’t know who to go to because of the language barrier. I serve as that medium to connect them to the resources they’re entitled to.

Bichotte will face Republican Matthew Williams and Brian Kelly, who is running on the Conservative party ticket, in the general election on Nov. 4.

In another race, Rubain Dorancy was soundly defeated by Jesse Hamilton for the Senate’s 20th District position. Dorancy was hoping to make history along with Bichotte to become a Haitian American duo in the halls of Albany. Joshua Pierre, a political consultant who supported both candidates said that he was elated by Bichotte’s win but was going to do a post mortem to assess what went wrong with Dorancy’s candidacy, despite having the endorsement of Mayor de Blasio as well.

“I’m happy with one out of two,” Pierre told the Haitian Times outside Tonel Restaurant.

Tuesday mixed emotion is also a coming of age for the Haitian community politically. Two decades ago, many Haitian leaders shunned local politics altogether and kept largely to themselves. But as a new generation of Haitian Americans emerged, they began to engage politically. This trend according to political experts is typical.

Haitian immigrants, particularly in Brooklyn, have been forced to build their own communities with their own internal networks to address their daily issues, Bichotte said recently. The 42nd District is the largest Haitian-populated district in New York State. While that has had its advantages in the past, it also puts community members at a disadvantage.

There are resources that Haitian immigrants, regardless of their legal status, have access to, Bichotte said. However, because of a number of factors, one being a language barrier, they are either unaware or afraid to take advantage of these opportunities.

“I bridge that gap,” Bichotte said. I want the people of this district to know “that as a child of the community, there is someone working on their behalf that won’t defraud them.”

Now she will have a higher platform to help.

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